My favorite books I read in 2012

English: Stack of books in Gould's Book Arcade...

I am not going to lie, 2012 was a craptastic year. But every dark cloud has a silver lining and I had a few of those. I achieved some goals, learned some hard lessons and made new friends. All of those belong in the win/win category of my story.

My Life Coach advised me to make a non-fitness goal this year. That was hard. A non-fitness goal made me feel weak. I looked at the things that were important to me and I decided convincing myself that I am intelligent was pretty high on the list. My non-fitness goal of 2012 was to read 50 books. Today is December 30th and I completed my last book today, just under the wire.  You can see the complete list of books here. That list shows 51 books, that is I am not sure whether to include Life of Pi. I read it 2 years ago and reread for book club. I got new insights out of it as I often do when I reread books, so I added it to the list. I also didn’t include the TON of reading material I read for University, that wasn’t for fun it was for marks which is fun in a different way, so that didn’t count either.

I decided to reflect back on my year of reading, trying out new genres and exploring topics that had been difficult for me in the past. I picked most of  these books because someone else read it and said, you might like it. Mostly it was true. If  i started a book and hated it, i stopped reading it. 50 books was a lot to get through and I wanted to enjoy my reading, after all this was suppose to be fun! This was a huge year for risk taking when it came to books and it paid off in droves! Here you have it, the Edmonton Tourist’s Top 11 books she read in 2012.

My favorite books I read in 2012

  1. Book of Negroes by  Lawrence Hill. Yes it is an older book, yes it won the Canada Reads award, yes it shamed me as a human and Canadian. But the story was captivating and engrossing. I couldn’t put it down. This should be required reading in every high school on the planet. I missed her when I finished the book. She was remarkable.
  2. Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Maybe I loved this because of where I was at the moment in my life but it struck a chord with me. It was my Eat, Love Pray of 2012. I want to read it every year to see if I learn new insights from it.
  3. 11/22/63 by Stephen King. This was and is the only book I have read by him. I will admit to being scared of him. I have seen some of his movies and I don’t like feeling scared, but something about this book called to me. First of all it wasn’t scary! Secondly it had an element that lots of people think about, myself included, the chance to go back in time and fix a wrong that you did. Sadly there would be consequences  I loved this book, but it was loooooooooooong. Not a quick read.
  4. Room by Emma Donoghue. This is not for the faint of heart. It was told through the eyes of a 5 year old boy and that made it seem less horrific because he didn’t really understand what he was seeing. A college girl is kidnapped and made to be a sex-slave for a creepy old guy and she is kept in ROOM. It made me think about how young children see their world and how they deal with pain and abuse.
  5. A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron. A book club pal recommended this to me. It is from the perspective of a dog who reincarnates into several lives looking for his purpose. He takes the lessons learned into the next life. Brilliant book, I loved it. It was heart warming and not sad.
  6. The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings. Better than the movie, although I thought the movie was great. I loved this man’s journey to discover what was truly important to him. The fact that I could vividly picture my future ex-husband George as the main character only broke my heart. I love how his relationship with his girls builds throughout the book. There is nothing sexier than a great dad.
  7. The Unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. It was long listed for the Booker Prize and I heard about this from Laurie Greenwood on CBC Radio. I liked this book as it played like a movie in my head, but it wasn’t until the end when you find out what it meant, then looking back over the book made it brilliant.
  8. Me before You by Jojo Moyes. I have figured this for some Chicklit fluff. Was I wrong! It had me torn in pieces thinking about the moral dilemma  Loved the two main characters. Great read!
  9. Gone girl by Gillian Flynn. I had never ventured into mystery before, or a mystery like this one. I often found my jaw hanging open in shock and awe. I may have found a new genre I like!
  10. Shop Girl by Steve Martin. I like his writing style. His other books were not as good as this one. I like how he captured the female character. I think it is hard for a man to write about females, I find them often unbelievable but I liked her.
  11. A Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan. This was almost poetry and made me feel pretty. Lots of memorable lines and something I could really relate to. Heartbreak transcends gender.

It was hard to narrow it down to 11 but I found some authors who I will read again, I quite like Diane Chamberlain and Jennifer Weiner both new to me. And I had the pleasure of reading Maeve Binchy’s last book. She is my favorite author and of late her books had left me flat, I was not like the Father Flynn series at all. But a Week in Winter brought in new characters and was as lovely as Even Class. I shall miss her.

As for next year? I am setting a goal of 20 books. This time I am going to explore fantasy. This is something that doesn’t interest me much but people yap on and on about it. Can’t say I hate something if I don’t give it an honest chance. I find it hard to wrap my head around weird names and bizarre settings. I like Sci-Fi so maybe I need to re-examine Fantasy, and by Fantasy I don’t mean that crappy 50 shades series. There is 2 days I will never get back.

So tell me, what is on your list for 2013? What is the first book you will be reading?

My Favorite Reads of the Year…so far

Books (Photo credit: henry…)

It is research day in my world today. Do I like it? Not this kind. Do I want to do it? Are you kidding me? It is a sunny blue sky day and I am stuck on my computer researching stats for school.

Whose big fat idea was it to further by education in my 40’s? Oh… right… that would be me. STUPID STUPID STUPID!

I am in the midst of my Spring Break. Ahhhhhhh I have loved almost every minute. I have had brilliant conversation with new friends, I have slept a crazy amount of time and I have swam my little heart out. 6km so far this week and yes my core hates me.

What I have done is read read and I read some more! I have embraced my ipad and downloaded a ton of books. This has helped me in numerous ways.

  1. I need to unwind from my crazy life
  2. I need to learn more vocabulary. I love the feature on the ipad where I tap the word, highlight it and tap define. What is good for me is it reaffirms I did know that word! Yeah me!
  3. I am enjoying time spent in New York, Seattle, Tehran (well maybe not so much Tehran but the cottage by the Caspian Sea) Hawaii and San Diego.

I went through a period where I just read blogs. I found new blogs and devoured them. I read old friends and enjoyed them. I am still keeping up with the blogging world, but books have come back to me. I think it is because of some de-stressing I gave my brain this year. I shut it off and enter the world of fiction. It is more luxurious than I can even articulate. The afternoons at my house are spent in silence while me and the offspring read. So far this year (since January 1, 2012) i have read 15 books. This is not including the books and texts I need for my classes. Those are corporate political thrillers hahaha ummm okay, not thrilling but interesting.I don’t keep track of those, I just reach from the pile and start, make notes, then analyze . Uh the dull and boring life of a student.

What I did keep track of was what I have read so far for fun! I get this from my dad. He keeps track of books out of necessity. The man reads about 50+ books a year. He does not wish to read repeat offenders. Therefore he keeps a list. I want to read 52 books this year, hopefully more, but a book a week is hard with my school reading schedule. I am taking the summer off from school so I hope to lay in my hammock and read the summer away. Sounds decadent!

Of the 15 so far, I will list my top 5.

5. Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nemat

This is a true account/memoir by the author. At the age of 16 she became a political prisoner of the Islamic Government under the Ayatollah Khomeini. She talks about prison life, executions, life as a Christian in a Muslim world. It was enlightening and sad. I could relate to her on many levels. This is a worthwhile read and gives an excellent view into the religious strife in the middle east.

4. Hidden by Cathy Glass

Cathy Glass is a Foster Parent in England. Their system does not seem that different from the system here in Canada. Her books chronicle the children’s stories of those she cares for. These are sad and heart breaking tales yet provide hope for the future and highlight the type of people who do so much good in this world. I know many of these children, not personally but metaphorically because many have been my students over the years. It gives a great perspective into WHY people behave the way they do.

3. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

It had me at the Lab on the cover. I was 4 paragraphs into the book before I realized the narrator was a dog. The life of a dog through his eyes. Let me tell you, dogs are smart and even more so once you read this. Everything they do makes sense and this fellow, Enzo ( Italian for Henry and will be the name of my next dog) has a wicked sense of humor and is loyal beyond all else. Loved loved loved this book. I had a smile on my face the entire time.

2. Room by Emma Donoghue

This story is from the perspective of a 5 year old. The story is of abduction and captivity and a child born because of it. Having it from his perspective lessened the trauma for me but was impactful just the same. I could not put this book down. Their escape was as exciting as any adventure story I have ever read. It shows how protective mothers can be and the bond between a parent and child. It was a beautiful story.

1. The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings

I have not seen the movie. I like to read the book first. This was the best read I have had in YEARS. I felt for the characters and their struggle in making the right decisions. I felt like I was in Hawaii with them. I was angry, sad, happy, horrified and then laughed. This book ran the gamete of emotions and in my books, that makes for a great read.

I have one more book where I wish to give honorable mention to. Stephen King’s 11/22/63 It was compelling, interesting and had a great ending. I didn’t place it in the top 5 because my eyes glazed over in the nitty gritty political parts. It felt too repetitive from history I already know. In sprite of that, I loved it just the same.

Next on my list?

Extremely loud and incredibly close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Night Circus by Erin Morgenstein

The Fifty Shades series

The Salt Road by Jane Johnson

So tell me, What are YOU reading?


My Traditions of Christmas

An ornament depicting a snowman, adorning a Ch...
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I woke up to the smell of burnt toast. Either I am having a stroke or someone left the bread in to long. I roll over to check the time… 8:30 AM. According to my standards, that is not sleeping in but that is all I can muster until the stresses leave my head. Two more days, maybe three. The stress of life, work, school, friends and family weigh heavy on me. It is like I am the mom of everything. I have to admit, it is easier this year. I have simplified, used honesty in a way that leaves nothing for assumptions to be misconstrued. I don’t have all my ducks in a row yet, but that is coming. Things are better than I had hoped for but not quite as fabulous as I wished for.

I finish reading Room by Emma Donoghue. It was compelling. All from the perspective of a 5 year old. As an educator of preschoolers, it made me think about them from an interesting perspective. But now it’s done and I need more books. I have a huge list for download, but I need to wait until after Christmas.

I roll out of bed because my tummy is rumbling. I ignore it to hop into the shower and indulge in the fancy soaps. It is Christmas Eve and the family festivities begin tonight.

As a kid I remember driving down from Yellowknife with dad trying to keep the Blizzard on our tail. We planned to sleep in Peace River, but Mom was worried we would be stuck there for Christmas Morning. So we kept moving. My brother (4) and I (6) were dressed in our jammies for the very long drive to Edmonton. We were armed with pillows, blankets and teddies. I remember the dark, but that is nothing new I lived in the Arctic. It was always dark, not really knowing the time by the light of the sun unless it was noon. Looking out the window as we drove, I saw swirling snow and dark. These were the days before electronics in the car. Mom couldn’t read to us because a flashlight would bother dad.  So we slept.

When we woke up it was still dark. But I remembered Granny’s house! It was just like I remembered from a 100 years ago or summertime, both were a long way away. Mom tried the side door, Grandpa left it open for us. We snuck in quietly, but not quietly enough I guess. In the living room we turned on the Christmas lights, placed gifts under the tree and waited. Granny came into the living room and there we were under the tree for her Christmas present. Her face was happy and so was mom’s. Somehow we went back to sleep to wait for Christmas Eve to come.

I reflect on traditions of my past and tried to incorporate the ones I loved into my Christmas present. Christmas Eve dinner use to be Chinese food out, but now it is at my brother’s house. I like that better. Opening one gift on Christmas Eve use to mean lunch with my dad’s parents and my beloved Gram, but that changed too. Now my kids get to open their gift from their brother who lives in Australia. They like that better. Opening stockings first, while dad had breakfast. We still open stockings first, while mom (me) makes her coffee. I like that better. Then opening gifts, one at a time to stretch out Christmas and share in what each other received. I liked that best and so does my son. The same tradition continues. Dinner no longer is at my Granny’s, it moved to my mom’s and now my sister and I take turns. I like it better at her house and she likes it better at mine.

The feeling is the same. Warm and comfortable, wishing others could join us but knowing they are far away and can’t. Memories of them will have to do.

As I look out my kitchen window to the small snow piles and warm air outside, I am thankful the weather is nicer than last year. I think about Christmas at Walt Disney World and loved swimming outside on New Years Eve. I love the dark at Christmas. It makes the lights shine and the ice sparkle. For the first time in years I found the Christmas Spirit. I realize I am not the old me, but the new and improved me. The Edmonton Tourist Tradition continues…

Merry Christmas to all my friends and family who celebrate, and best wishes for all of you who don’t.

Love The Edmonton Tourist aka Robyn